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kind of society. the ultimate killing machine of the age of globalization. it's sleek. you don't see it. you don't see when it's coming, who is behind it, why is it coming? is it coming out all? being denied it ever came. very much like wall street, you remember all the senior executives who had no idea what they were doing, how they were doing it. whether you could even hold them up for retribution, and they got away with it...
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>> the interview was recorded at american university's media production center in washington, d.c. as part of our college series. >> host: becoming a candidate is the name of the book, political ambition and the decision to run for office. the author, american university professor jennifer lawless. professor lawless, why do people run for office in the u.s.? >> guest: lots of reasons, but basically because they've
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thought about it, and it's been something percolating in the back of their mind for a very long time. so rarely does somebody wake up in the morning and decide, oh, this seems interesting. i wasn't thinking about this, but i don't like my incumbent, i'm going to throw my hat into the ring. it's the evolution of a very long, politically-engaged process. >> host: is it because they're concerned about policy? is it because of an ego issue? >> guest: it depends who you're talking about. one of the biggest kindings in the book is a -- findings in the book is a substantial gender difference. men are far more likely to think they're qualified to run for office, they're far more likely to think they would win, so to some extent there might be ego strength involved. but certainly it's about policy and the idea of entering the electoral arena is a way to make the world a better place. >> host: going back to the gender issue, why is it that men are convinced that they would be successful and popular? >> guest: i think we see that in many realms, right? you can ask fourth graders how
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well they performed on a test, and fourth grade boys overestimate their performance. so if you hearken back to patterns of traditional socialization, men have generally been told that they're good at what they do, especially when they're operating in male-dominated environments. and women tend to be not discouraged from operating that way, but they're encouraged to acquire different types of qualities and traits. and so they are a little more self-depracating, they doubt their confidence. but in addition, because politics is such a male-dominated arena, a lot of women think they have to be twice as good to get half as far. so they're doubting their qualifications, but they're also using a different yardstick by which to gauge them. >> host: is there a difference in race between white, black, latino? >> guest: there is. both sex and race are negative predicters, basically, of whether you will be interested in running for office. so any kind of minority status, any way that you deviate from the norm which is a white, male, heterosexual, 55-year-old man,
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we see variation. the good news, though, is that political recruitment can close those kinds of gaps. and so when electoral gatekeepers like party leaders or elected officials or political activists encourage people to run for office, they're very likely to take them up on that suggestion. and we have seen increased encouragement especially among african-americans and latinos. >> host: professor lawless, you walk through a couple case studies where you give examples throughout here. what's an example of somebody who woke up or developed an interest in policy and ran for office successfully? >> guest: well, i think bill clinton is the most obvious example. um, he writes in his memoir that sometime in his 16th year he decided that politics was the real calling for him. and so at that point he became very cognizant of the idea that he wanted to run, and he began looking for electoral opportunities. so when he was in his open 20s and there was an open congressional seat in arkansas, he figured that was a good time to throw his hat into the ring.
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and he thought even if he lost that race, there would still be a good shot, that he would perform well enough not to ruin his political career. and sure enough, he lost the race, but he ultimately ran for attorney general and won, he game governor and then, obviously, president. >> host: so if somebody loses their first race, how much of a turnoff is that to them? >> guest: i don't think it's that much of a turnoff. that's not my major focus of research, i'm interest inside why people do it in the first place. i ran for congress. i ran in rhode island's 2nd congressional district in 2006, and i lost, which is why i'm here. but what i can say is it's an amazing experience. and most people who throw their hats into the ring are doing it because they're so passionate about the issues, they're so interested in making a difference, they so want to be involved in the political sphere that a loss is an unfortunate consequence, but the campaign itself is so exhilarating that it's difficult not to want to do it again. >> host: jennifer lawless, tell us about your experience. where were you, why did you run,
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what was the primary, etc. >> guest: i ran in 2006 in the democratic primary in rhode island's 2nd congressional district against an incumbent who had been there for a while, and prior to that he had served as secretary of state and had been in the state legislature -- >> host: and that is -- >> guest: jim langevin who's still in congress. >> host: right, still in congress. >> guest: and the main reason that i ran was because i felt that he wasn't representing the district on the issues that mattered much to me -- >> host: such as? >> guest: he had voted at the time 27 times against a woman's right to choose. rhode island was two-thirds pro-choice, i was pro-choice and felt that was an important issue. he also cast a series of votes regarding reauthorizing egregious provisions of the patriot act, he was not very outspoken about the war in iraq. and so i just felt that there were a plethora of issues where rhode islanders weren't being adequately represented. but there's a very substantial incumbency advantage, and rarely does the establishment field a candidate to go against someone in a primary. so i feldt like i had to do
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it -- i felt like i had to do it if i wanted to bring about change. and i had just written my first book, so i was very aware of some of these traditional limitations that women felt. and because i was so cognizant of those things, i think i believed that i could overcome them. and i wound up with about 40% of the vote which was better than people expected but not good enough for me. >> host: did you become known as a single-issue candidate? >> guest: it's difficult not to when you're running especially in a primary where only a few issues different shade you. and in my case -- differentiate you. and in my case it was particularly difficult because the one issue where we were the most different, which was reproductive freedom, was also a traditional women's issue. so it became easy for the media to frame this as a referendum on abortion rights. so we worked very, very hard over the course of 16 months to demonstrate that this was far more than just a single-you
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should shoe campaign and it was really about bringing what i had considered real democratic leadership back to rhode island's 2nd congressional district. >> host: jennifer lawless, in the 16 months at what point, was there a point where you just said, i can't believe i'm doing this? >> guest: no. but i will say that every single day i woke up thrilled that i had the opportunity to do it. so i can genuinely say at the worst days, at the end of the day it was worth it, and at no point did i ever think maybe this is not the right thing to do. >> host: so given your experience, what would you tell women who may have an interest in running for office today? >> guest: i think the most important thing to keep in mind is that there is a very steep learning curve, but you can't assess whether you're qualified before you get into the race. because what happens is it takes about two weeks to acquire the qualifications, the confidence, the thick skin that you need to persevere. but if you assess yourself based on those adequates and characteristics before you actually run, obviously you're going to think you don't have
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them. i remember when i had first announced that i was running, my parents -- who had always been very supportive of everything i wanted to do -- said i couldn't run because i wasn't a crier. they didn't want me to call every night and say people are mean. and it's true, the first couple weeks were very difficult, but that's exactly how long it takes to develop the thick skin that you need. and you then are just so grateful that you have the opportunity. and 99% of interactions that you have with people are incredibly positive x. the thing that was particularly surprising to me is that most people have never actually met a candidate. so they're so grateful to get the opportunity to speak to you even if they disagree with everything you believe. was they feel like -- because they feel like they have an opportunity to voice their opinion and have their preferences heard, whether it's by somebody who wins or loses, it's somebody who's part of this debate. >> host: in your book, "becoming a candidate," you have a chart of how many elected pushes there are in the united states. how much? >> guest: there are well over 500,000 elected officials. and we tend not to realize that
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because so many of them are at the local level. we tend to think about the 535 federal-elected officials; the president, the vice president and the congress. but the system was set up in the united states such that people run for office. and we have uncontested races for literally hundreds of thousands of local positions. so if people are interested in getting involved, they don't necessarily have to weather a congressional campaign, they don't have to worry about the media rifling through their trash, they don't have to worry about an invasion of privacy in most cases. most of these offices garner very little attention and just really do provide an opportunity for people to bring about positive change. >> host: jennifer lawless, what would turn a candidate off? i just want to use some keywords, and you talk about them. negative campaigning. >> guest: everyone says they hate it. everybody says they don't want to do it. but mark my words, the minute you find yourself with an opportunity to do it, you seize it. and i'll tell you why. if you have to engage in a negative campaign and if your opponent is campaigning in a
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negative way as well, it means it's a close, competitive race. you need to differentiate yourself. and the other thing i would say is we've reached a point in american politics where now we've kind of conflated this notion of attacking a person versus attacking that perp's positions. and i think -- person's positions. and i think people have to realize a negative campaign can be one in which you're really just differentiating yourself on the issues. you don't have to take down your opponent's personal traits, you don't have to take down his or her family, you don't have to run a kind of smear campaign. but negativity in terms of differentiation is actually a very useful way to educate voters. >> host: fundraising. >> guest: everyone hates it. i hated it. it's miserable. the good news for women is that they're just as able and effective when they do it. so part of the reason that we have is so few women in politics is not because they're not able to raise as much money as men, it's not because voters won't vote for them on election day, it's that they're not running in the first place. so it's a terrible skill. candidates and elected officials
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all say they wish there was less money in politics, they wish that they could spend less time raising those funds. but once you actually pick up the phone, you're probably going to be quite successful. >> host: jennifer lawless, of those 500,000-plus elected officials, how many men, how many women? >> guest: it's difficult, we don't actually know. we know that in the federal government about 18% of the u.s. congress is women. we know that 45 of the 50 states have male governors, you know, 90% of the large cities have male mayors. but once you get to those local offices there's really not systematic attention. school boards have better representation, about 45% of the people on school boards across the country are women. unfortunately, school boards are not as likely as other local offices to be the first office that then propels a future career in politics. so people are less likely to use it as a steppingstone. >> host: is a steppingstone a definition of success in politics? >> guest: it can help. um, we tend to have career ladder politics in this country,
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so most people do start at the local level, and then they'll climb to the state level and maybe one day run for federal office. but it's by no means a requirement. and what i learned from conducting these surveys and interviews was well over 4,000 men and women who are well situated to run for office is that it's important that you focus your political ambition on the issues that you care most about. so if you care about federal issues, it's not necessarily the most effective route to start by running at the local level and wait 20 years to climb that ladder. you're going to be the most effective around the issues about which you're most enthusiastic. >> host: do you have in your book, "becoming a candidate," a case study of a failure; somebody who ran for office for the wrong reasons, etc. >> guest: we have a series of people that we surveyed and interviewed. so we surveyed and interviewed about 4,000 women and men who are in the professions that are most likely to lead to political careers, lawyers, educators, political activists and business people, an equal number of men
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and women. and then we did follow-up phone interviews between 30 and 45 minutes in length of 300 of them. and over the course of those interviews, there were certainly some examples of people who said that they thought that they wanted to run for office, they weren't sure where to channel their ambition, and so people who were party activists encouraged them to run for a position that they weren't that enthusiastic about, and their heart just wasn't in it. so when they lost the campaign, it wasn't devastating to them, because it was unclear that they really wanted the position in the first place. so we see that in high-level politics as well. there have certainly been candidates who when we watch them campaigning, we realize that maybe this isn't what they want to do. >> host: you say "we," who's we? >> guest: political scientists in general, but i also think voters. and there's nothing more un appealing than a candidate running for, especially a high-level office, whose heart isn't in it. and one example i think of this is if we look at the 2012 or
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2010 house and senate races, the most competitive races are those where the two candidates really are spending all of their time campaigning and spending all of their time explaining why their vision is right. it's not a quips dense that those are -- coincidence that those are the competitive races. they're the competitive races because these are two people who want nothing more than anything else to win. and without that kind of competitive spirit and without that kind of drive, politics becomes boring. >> host: jennifer lawless, i apologize, you said we called and conducted these surveys, who helped you with -- >> guest: so the research that "becoming a candidate" is based on is based on three waves of surveys and interviews with potential candidates starting in 2001, and so those surveys were conducted with richard fox who's a professor at loyola university in los angeles. >> host: did your last name have a negative effect, do you think, in your campaign? >> guest: it was memorable, i think, so i would say there was no negative effect, but at least it made people think about it.
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there were people that would say, oh, isn't congress lawless enough? and the answer was, no. [laughter] you know, frankly, when you're trying to build name recognition, everything helps. and if there's a pun regarding your name, i'll take it. >> host: what about the media? role of the media in 2012 and on in today's media world? >> guest: it's interesting, danny hayes, who's at george washington university, and i just did a very thorough, systematic assessment of local media coverage of congressional races in 2010 because there's this conventional wisdom out there that women are not covered the same way as men are, that ultimately the coverage of women focusings more on their -- focuses more on their appearance, their integrity, whereas men are considered leaders, very competent people. and those are the traits you want in a politician. so there was this war out there that negative coverage or different coverage actually served to women's detriment. and based on my own experiences, i didn't feel that way. i felt like i had received a fair amount of coverage,
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probably more than i deserved in part because rhode island was a small state. but i also felt that it was not gendered at all. so we undertook this analysis where we wound up sammatically looking at nearly 3,000 newspaper articles, and we found no gender or differences whatsoever. now, the bad news is that this might be -- not that men and women are being covered the same way because it's such good coverage, but that the overall amount of coverage has gotten more superficial. so men are now covered regarding their appearance. just ask chris christie or paul ryan. they spend a lot of time talking about their weight or their ill-fitting suit or their exercise regime. and although that might level the playing field a bit because it's not just women who have to talk about these things now, it might be at the expense of more substantive coverage. >> host: what advice would you have for candidates to reaching out finish -- for reaching out to the media? >> guest: i'd say two things.
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when they call, always talk to them because you need to build good relationships with them, and if they're approaching you, there's no reason not to take them up on the opportunity they're offering. and the second is don't waste their time. don't send out a press release every day announcing something that's not really important. send out a press release that's actually newsworthy. have an event that's actually newsworthy. because if you can get them to come to those events and cover those events, they'll then continue to cover you. if you waste their time, they'll easily stop. >> host: jennifer lawless, what do you teach here at american university? >> guest: i teach, this semester i'm teaching women in the political leadership as well as a ph.d. seminar on contemporary topics in american politics. but last semester i taught a class called election 2012 where we followed the congressional and presidential elections in very, very excruciating detail. i also teach women in politics and public opinion. >> host: that said, what are two conclusions you have about the 2012 election? >> guest: i -- >> host: that's a terrible general question --
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>> guest: that's okay. that's a broad question. the two big things i would say that were very relevant in 2012 was that primaries really matter, and even though it seemed that mitt romney got think the republican primary almost unscathed, he didn't weigh into a lot of the debates that ultimately cost some of the other candidates the nomination probably. he was still stamped with the results of a lot of those debates. and so he still came into the general election looking a lot less moderate than he probably would have liked to look. so even if you're not one of the candidates moving to the right in the primary or the left if you're on the democratic side, chances are you're still going to be stamped with what the primary looks like. and the other thing i would say is that women really matter. this was yet one more election where there was a very substantial gender gap. we've had gender gaps in every presidential election since 1980 and in all congressional elections since 1986. but here was yet one more example of a president not being able to win without the women's
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vote. and he cultivated that vote, and he won that vote, and he was able to keep their support to the same extent that he had four years earlier. >> host: will you run for office again? >> guest: i'd love to. i have no immediate plans, but it was unquestionably the most important and best experience i've ever had. >> host: "becoming a candidate," is the name of the book, "political ambition and the decision to run for office." cambridge university press, american university professor jennifer lawless is the author. >> booktv is on facebook. like us to interact with book tv guests and viewers. watch videos and get up-to-date information on events. face >> i want to move to the role of publishers in this new world. it used to be that publishers would take care of all distribution, they would take care of production, and they would provide the advance. and that constant -- that series of services led them to take a
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very he hefty cut, a 95% cut. now, now you don't need production because you can put it out on the web, you don't need an advance because it doesn't cost that much to write, and you don't need the distribution, again, because you can put it on the web. and so what is the changing role of publishers in this new world where production and distribution and financing are starting to be taken by different technologies? >> guest: so there's a lot in there, and let me kind of unpack it. first, i actually disagree fundamentally with a couple of things. there's, there are production, distribution costs and, um, you know, tasks involved whether it's digital or physical. i think it's a very common misunderstanding. it's very easy to think that digital is free. and it's not. i mean, there's a lot of
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backlash, actually, if you will, over some of the early books. and we've got an extensive back list, thousands and thousands of titles that are converted. there's a conversion process that takes place, and there's a lot of care and feeding that must go into that because in the early days when you're just sort of literally scanning books to get them into an e-format, you just were not replicating the book properly. so, first of all, this is still a production not just cost, but an entirely new competency around production of a digital book and presenting that properly. i'm actually looking at our head of children's publishing, um, who's smiling because she knows she and i have these conversations all the time. when you talk about children's books and how to produce something, um, that is for color that, you know, conveys the gorgeous illustrations, um, that the artist intended -- >> but if that's true, surely that's only true for the first copy.
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>> correct. >> and every one thereafter is free. pause there's no -- because there's no, there's no marginal cost to make ten million copies. >> right. you lose paper printing and binding. >> marginal cost -- >> yep, the marginal cost of paper, printing and binding. >> and shipping. >> and shipping. >> and warehousing. [laughter] >> not necessarily, not -- [inaudible conversations] >> yeah, it does. no, not necessarily. there is a, there is a deep infrastructure that is needed to support digital operations. the other thing, um, i would mention about the state of publishing today is if you talk about the future of reading, the future of publishing, you know, where are e-books going to go, that's kind of the big question, will it be a complete swapping out of the physical for the digital immediate what -- media as has happened in music, for example, and film, photography
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that is. in books i believe there's not going to be that swapping out 100% of physical for digital. children's books, i think, are a great example where there's a very, very strong desire to have a physical book to flip through with your child. now, that's today. five, ten years from now, you know, we might be speaking on something different. but today publishers are in a world where they can't be jumping tracks from the physical to the digital. we're truly supporting two businesses. so you're continuing to support the print business while continuing to support the digital business. underlying that is sort of a third business that you are cultivating which is getting to a place where we're not talking about the conversion of e-books. so merely taking what used to be in a physical form and now porting it over into a digital form, but the creation of digital products, the creation from really creating a digital product from conception, something that was initially
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conceived with the author, developed with the author to be a completely new digital product. so the role of publishers in that scenario -- because, sorry, the one thing you had sort of forgotten, i think, on your list of what publishers do, it's really the heart of what we do, it's the editorial. it's really bringing that story, you know, shaping that story with the author and bringing it to market in the best possible way. that still exists and exists, i think, in many an even more exciting way when you talk about the creation of digital-only products. [inaudible conversations] >> shaping the story may be the only role actually. because there's almost nothing left after -- helping shape the story. [inaudible conversations] >> wrong! [laughter] i always wanted to get my john mcloughlin on. but, no, seriously, you're wrong. [laughter] i will say i that, you know, as the other side, you know, we're partners here. she's not my publisher here, but she is a publisher. >> she might be. >> i'm happy where i am.
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but, you know, i had a very explicit arrangement with harper about who's doing what here. and, again, because i came from more of a digital foundation, i was just skeptical of everything. i can do that, i can do that, i can do that too. i can spell check, what have you got? [laughter] and it turns out i was wrong about a few things. i was right about a few things, and i learned a ton in the process. so in terms of the editorial, having an editor was great. now, of course, i could have gone and independently hired a great writer/editor to help me through that process. i was happy to have the support of the person at harper, barry harbaugh, that was really cool. the distribution of the digital to still support the digital, that i ignored completely, you know? i basically got free advertising across the nation on book shelves. i can't buy that. no single person can afford to distribute 10, 15, 20,000 books into hundreds and hundreds of bookstores and libraries all around the world. and digital-only doesn't do that. you cut off the physical
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marketing in that sense. so that helps support the digital. when they ran out of physical books, my e-book sales spiked. so there's a level of demand regard lets of format, and people literally -- you could see the charts, they switched over. but they would have probably gotten the physical one. and then the actual marketing of the thing, me and my campaign manager for the book, a guy named craig who i met through the onion, we built this rabid internet army digital plan, and harper did the more traditional, big media plan. and got me on msnbc and all these things, again, individuals it's very hard. that's a network game. and that's a roll decks game. and -- roll to decks game. and there's a finite amount of people that many make that sort of thing happen. and a flood of authors can't all pull that off on their own. so i found that i was wrong that publishers are useless -- [laughter] and i was glad for it, you know? be because we were splitting this hear money -- this here money, and i want to make sure
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we're both doing something. [laughter] and i learned a lot about, you know, the excitement, the upside and the limits of what individual authors or authors who create a collective or create their own kind of digital presence. but there's a flood of readers. there's also a flood of writings in words, tweets, blogs, also books. it's just more books than ever. and how do you discover, how do you discern, how do you convince somebody that you're worth their time? you know, attention is the currency. and when you spend it watching a cat, you know, play a fiddle on youtube -- [laughter] or reading about the future of blackness, like, that's an equal choice to some people. [laughter] in the world we're just competing for pixels, we're competing for real estate, we're competing for mental real estate, and there's so many extra writers competing for attention that a publisher, you know, who knows what they're doing can add a little extra weight on top of the individual kick starter, you know, moving artist or somebody who's just
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like i've got a blog platform, i'm going to print out my blog and call it a book. a little more to it. >> i think that's true, but you're an exception because you wrote a bestseller. the shelf life of a book, i'm sure that sheryl would confirm this, is a matter of weeks or days. and most books don't make it into week r bookstores -- bookstores. we're living in a different world. now, i agree in this world publishers are crucial. i'm really worried about booksellers, however, because that middle person is beginning to disappear, and outfits like amazon are transforming the way books reach readers. and then there's a movement in the other direction that i think very few people have noticed. there were about 350,000 new titles published in the u.s. last year. that's a 6% increase over the previous year in paper. the book industry's actually doing very well, although publishers a

Book TV
CSPAN February 17, 2013 1:30pm-2:00pm EST

Jennifer Lawless Education. (2013) 'Becoming a Candidate Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office.' New.

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